Marine Science Faculty Publications

Coral-Reef Risk Assessment from Satellites to Molecules: A Multi-Scale Approach to Environmental Monitoring and Risk Assessment of Coral Reefs

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coral reef, risk assessment, bioindicator, water quality


Coral reefs are in decline worldwide. Resource managers require indicators of the biological condition of reef environments that can relate data acquired through remote-sensing, water-quality and benthic-community monitoring to stress responses in reef organisms. A multi-level approach to monitoring and risk assessment of coral-reef resources is proposed that can provide managers with affordable procedures upon which to base management decisions. Advantages of implementing and further developing the proposed approach can be immediate, as well as long term and economic. Most of the technology and procedures are currently available. The ongoing global alert system, based on satellite data, should be expanded to include both estimates of radiant energy reaching the sea surface and water transparency anomalies (i.e., ‘photooxidative hotspots’ and ‘plume’ alerts). Satellite-derived alerts should be verified locally by in situ physical and chemical measurements, community assessments and bioindicators of stress that can be affordably incorporated into any management plan. Risk assessments based on in situ measurements and low cost bioindicators will provide resource managers with essential information to decide when more costly chemical or molecular procedures are needed to determine local sources of stress, which can then focus management actions to protect or restore reef resources.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Environmental Micropaleontology, Microbiology, and Meiobenthology, v. 1, p. 11-39